In 2013 and 2014, Sky Blue FC’s Courtney “Coco” Goodson tallied a remarkable 40 starts in 43 appearances. Her consistency and role as an anchor on Sky Blue’s defensive line was valued on and off the field, which made her announcement in March even more impactful yet unexpected: she was retiring from the game and hanging her cleats for good.
“I have made the difficult decision to start the next chapter of my life and pursue a new career,” Goodson’s retirement statement read. “I want to thank Sky Blue FC and the NWSL for allowing me to follow my dreams and play professional soccer.”
But now, the 25-year-old has decided to revive her soccer career and is making a return to Sky Blue. Goodson officially rejoined the team on June 19th — ironically, as she pointed out, also her birthday. Her return to Sky Blue began through a phone call with head coach Jim Gabarra, in which Goodson told him she would like to come back. Gabarra responded with, “Okay! We’ll figure it out and get you in.”
“[During retirement] I was at home and really missing the competition and the girls and the organization and everything about soccer,” Goodson said with a laugh. “I’m just grateful that the opportunity was still there for me to come back.”
Goodson played in her first game of the season on Sunday in a home effort against the Chicago Red Stars, Goodson’s first professional performance since August 20, 2014. Goodson played the final 15 minutes in Sky Blue’s 3-0 loss; which was, more than anything, a test of her current athletic status. Goodson said she felt “good,” but mentioned the stark differences in playing professional soccer and not doing anything as a retiree. Both she and Gabarra said her transition back into the game would take some time, and both put her timetable for returning “match fitness,” as Gabarra described it, at one to two weeks.
Goodson’s role with the team will be another interesting storyline during her return. Traditionally a defender, she spent the last two seasons jostling for a starting role with players like Lindi Cutshall, Christie Rampone, and current rookie Kristin Grubka. In her short stint against Chicago, however, Goodson surprisingly played as a forward — a decision Gabarra attributed to a simple need at the position. With forward Kelley O’Hara out due to the Women’s World Cup, Sky Blue’s roster is thinner than normal.
“We needed to get another forward up there with Nadia [Nadim],” Gabarra said. “The last few games we’ve had…two forwards up front, and it’s created a lot more chances.”
Goodson took the switch in stride, citing her past experiences as helpful to her assignment. “I played two years at forward in college, and it’s definitely something I’m used to,” she said. “I’ll play any role that I am given.”
For years, Goodson has been a fan favorite for Sky Blue FC. Drafted 21st overall in 2013, the California native received a cheer from the crowd as she entered the game on Sunday; a lone bright spot to the team’s otherwise disappointing outcome. Regardless of her role or effectiveness, the organization welcomes her back.
“Most of the [response from fans] was positive,” Goodson said. “Somebody called it a ‘Brett Farve comeback,’ which was funny.”
Although Sunday was a largely celebratory day for Goodson, the unfortunate byproduct of her unretirement was Sky Blue’s waiving 22-year-old Maruschka Waldus. In her one and only appearance in the season, Waldus made history as the first Dutch player to play in a NWSL game. Gabarra voiced his appreciation for Waldus, saying she “filled a role that Coco handled the past two seasons.”
Nevertheless, Coco Goodson’s welcomed return to Sky Blue FC serves as an indication of just how much she means to the team. With ten games remaining in the season, her addition will certainly be felt.